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Analytics: Building a Winning Strategy in Manufacturing

Machinery, supply chains, and raw materials have always been core concerns in manufacturing. Today, another asset is just as critical — data.

General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said it well: “The industrial world is changing dramatically, and those companies that make the best use of data will be the most successful.”

I certainly agree. If manufacturers want to gain the agility, innovation, and hyper-awareness needed to compete and win, they must start thinking like technology companies. That means leveraging data — and the real-time insights derived through analytics — in impactful new ways.

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As Manufacturers Go Digital, Customer Value Expands

Every single day, I’m reminded that a digital revolution is taking place—from researching local coffee places on the dashboard of my car to ordering coffee on my mobile device—it’s clear that our lives are becoming more digitized. This is also apparent for the businesses and industries that manufacture the goods that we use everyday. In order to compete today, manufacturers must respond to complex and constantly changing demands from their customers. That requires the agility, rapid innovation, and fast execution that only digital manufacturing can deliver. Too many manufacturers, however, still lack these critical capabilities and suffer from fragmented and siloed organizational structures.

This was reinforced by new research from Cisco on the current and future state of digital disruption in manufacturing. The study included economic analysis, interviews with manufacturing industry thought leaders, and a survey of more than 600 senior leaders from 13 countries, representing both industrial machine builders and end-user manufacturers.

Our research confirmed that manufacturers get it. They understand that a digital revolution is taking place, and they want to be part of it. Seventy-nine percent believe that digital disruption will drive a moderate to major impact at their companies in the next three years. Moreover, they see digital technologies such as cloud, IoT, and analytics as having the biggest impact on their production — not more manufacturing-centric technologies such as robotics and 3D printing.

However, in terms of driving new value, many are faltering. Their service strategies, for example, are seen as a key opportunity for new revenue, but they are not driving expected levels of growth.

Digital business transformation is the solution, but it can’t be done in a piecemeal fashion; it must be implemented across the entire organization and beyond, throughout the ecosystem. Analytics, cloud, machine-to-machine connections, and collaboration tools all enable new opportunities for sharing data insights. Getting those insights to the people (or machines) who need them most, on the other hand, can be challenging. In this context, silos — between IT and operational technology (OT), engineering and design, and so forth — are the enemy to progress.

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Manufacturers Go Mobile

Mary Ann Azevedo

Mary Ann Azevedo

Guest Blog by

Mary Ann Azevedo is an award-winning journalist based in Silicon Valley.  She has covered business and technology issues for Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, the San Francisco Business Times and the Houston Business Journal.

An excellent piece by Mary Ann Azevedo is now available on the “The Network” (originally published June 24 , 2013) which expands upon many of the themes we have discussed on this Cisco Manufacturing Blog site. Start reading here, and the ‘Read More’ link will take you to the full article:

Ten years ago, an employee at a manufacturing firm would have to use pen and paper to conduct a plant floor inspection or quality control check. With handwritten notes, there was the potential for mistakes. The time it would take for a discovered problem to be addressed would vary considering how long it took for someone to learn about it and find the resources to solve it.

But as mobile technology has advanced, those same workers now have the option to instead use a mobile device such as a tablet or an iPad to perform the same functions. And those that do are finding that they are saving time and money while reducing the risk for errors and increasing safety in the workplace.

Manufacturers may have been slow to adopt mobility in the workplace but that reluctance seems to be gradually fading as once more conservative manufacturers are viewing the use of mobile as a way to get a leg up on their competition, notes Heather Ashton, research Manager for IDC Manufacturing and Retail Insights.Manufacturing employees “are becoming the smart connected worker by taking the technology with them,” she notes. “They’re moving throughout their workday connected at all times, which is huge.”

Not only they are adopting the use of mobile more, they are actually developing their own applications.According to a spring 2012 IDC survey (see chart in main article ), nearly 40 percent of 373 surveyed manufacturers across a variety of sectors said they intended to develop half or more of their applications for mobile platforms in 2012.

Eaton Corp. is one example of a company that has developed its own mobile application to enhance operations. John Gercak, vice president of information technology for Eaton’s $4 billion vehicle group, said his team in the United States and India spent about seven months developing the “Powertrac.”

The mobile application, which went live last December, uses a global positioning system (GPS) on an iPad and a cellular network to track the company’s test vehicles for supporting its products.

“With this app, the driver takes the iPad with them in the vehicle while on the track and we’re able to see in real time on the Web exactly where the vehicle is at all times,” he said.  Gercak said this is particularly useful because “if there’s a safety issue, we’re able to tell and notify the drivers in advance so as to avoid any potential accidents. Before if a vehicle was broken down, we weren’t able to know right away and contact the other drivers so from a safety perspective, it’s very helpful,”  Read More >

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